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Conference Encourages Shuls and Yeshivas to Open Shop

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Like many, yeshivas and shuls have taken a financial hit during this recession. A good way for them to make extra money would be by thinking like entrepreneurs. At least according to a conference, jointly sponsored by the National Council of Young Israel, Touro Graduate School of Business, and The Jewish Press.  

Last Thursday, 25 people – representing their respective yeshivas, shuls, and other Jewish non-profits – attended and heard lectures touching on a variety of fundraising ideas. One of the most unique was that Jewish institutions apply the concepts of entrepreneurship and business to the their fundraising plans. One example that was mentioned is a thrift shop, where a shul or yeshiva could use clothing and even furniture that was donated to it, and in turn sell them at low costs – an idea that many felt was appealing considering the current economy.

 The conference was broken up into two parts. In the first, Dr. Larry Bellman, the director of the Entrepreneurial Institute at Touro College, discussed fundraising as an entrepreneurial effort in general. With some creativity and innovation, he told the audience, Jewish institutions could attract new donors, and bring in the participation of members and business alliances. He said that one of the keys is to answer a contributor’s main question, “What’s in it for me?”

In the second half, Rabbi Pesach Lerner, executive vice president of the National Council of Young Israel and the initiator of the program, shared many practical business ideas that combined the benefits of being a not for profit entity, often with a large contingency of friends and donors, with the opportunities of a business endeavor.

The audience was happy to participate. After hearing from Dr. Bellman and Rabbi Lerner, They began to “think out of the box” and shared many of their own ideas and practical experiences.

Rochelle Zupnik, who was representing both ACHI613.org and Birkas Rifka, said that the intriguing topic drew her in, and that the presentations were enjoyable.

She said that she has always thought creatively about fundraising. “You can’t keep tapping the same people,” she said. “You need to think out of the box.”

Zupnik, a coordinator for ACHI613.org, which tries to encourage Americans to “Think Israel, Buy Israeli,” said that she has tried to get school children heavily involved in helping to raise funds. One example she cited was a “math-athon” by students in Manhattan Day School, who raised $3,000.

“I’m waiting for Touro, the Young Israel and The Jewish Press to announce a squeal,” she said. “They could recap for those who missed this one and move on to more. We can learn from each other.”

About the Author: Shlomo Greenwald is associate editor of The Jewish Press.

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